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Feb 24, 2009 04:55 AM

ALBA-eating and food shopping in and around the city

I will be in Alba in April and in preparation for my trip I am seeking advice on where to eat and where to shop for local food products. So please post your recommendations, with emphasis on trattorie and osterie rather than Michelin-starred restaurants (although I will not rule anything out, I want to concentrate mostly on traditional renditions of local fare)

In Alba, I have these on my tentative list; please comment:





In the region:

I BOLOGNA in Rochetta Tanaro

CA DEL RE at Castello di Verduno

(This may be too modern/creative for us on this first trip).

LA ROSA ROSSA in Cherasco

And two more in Cherasco, where the local specialty is snails:

Food shopping:



Please add your comments! Thanks!

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  1. You should definitely try Osteria Dei Sognatori. Via Macrino, 8. It's a fantastic place

    1. I would definitely recommend a visit to Cherasco. It is a charming town. La Rosa Rossa is a very good local osteria. There is also a chocolate shop there that makes the most delicious roasted hazelnuts covered in dark chocolate.

      The brochures available in the tourist offices in Alba and elsewhere in the PIemonte are the best I have seen in Italy. There are several that cover the foods and wines of the region. Be sure to pick up the one that lists which towns have food markets on which days. Try to visit Bra on market day. I would also recommend dining at Boccadavino in Bra, the restaurant sponsored by Slow Food.

      One of the best places to taste a variety of wines is the regional enoteca in the castle at Grinzane Cavour.

      5 Replies
      1. re: DavidT

        Many thanks! David: Cherasco looks gorgeous and I did consider staying there but opted, in the end, for a B&B outside Alba, Villa Favorita. But I will certainly allot time to visit Cherasco and to have lunch at La Rosa Rossa.

        We will probably have time to visit Bra--with my poor Italian skills, I am not sure that I am reading correctly but I think that the main food market day is Saturday and that there is a big general market on Fridays and a smaller one on Wednesdays.

        1. re: erica

          My Italian is certainly no better than yours. The tourist brochures I mentioned should all be available in English. The brochure for the food markets of Piemonte will have all details. I imagine the markets in each town are pretty similar, as many of the same vendors travel from town to town over the course of the week.

          1. re: DavidT

            Thanks again. Did you sample the snails in Cherasco? I've had never thought of snail dishes in Italy untill I read about the town!

            1. re: erica

              No snails for me! There is an osteria in Cherasco called La Lumaca (the snail).


        2. re: DavidT

          I recently returned from a week-long road trip through Piedmont with a 2 night stay in Bra. We did eat at Boccadavino one night, which was very good. But the real standout for us in Bra was Badellino--absolutely delicious.


        3. My wife and I were in Piedmont last September and loved it. It may be impossible to have a bad meal there. Don't worry about having difficulty finding renditions of local fare, even the Michelin restaurants in that area of Piedmont serve versions of the local fare (albeit with a twist or two).

          In Alba, we ate at both Enoclub and La Liberia. Both were excellent. If you have to choose one, I would take La Liberia. It's just got a great vibe. We ate there in the middle of the week and everybody who walked in seemed to know everybody else in the place. When it was obvious that two non-Italian speakers were having difficulty with the menu, the chef came over and translated for us. He trained in England, so his English is excellent. He spent lots of time explaining to us, even though he had a kitchen to attend to and a full house to deal with (all of whom seemed to know him).

          Cherasco is very charming. We stopped for Lunch there on our way to Barolo. We ate at La Torre, which is in the Slow Food Osteria guide (although we didn't know it at the time, we just ate at the first cafe we found.) You have to have at least one snail dish if you are in town. They were delicious. My wife's dish was topped with white truffle. They just slice them until you tell them to stop (of course, you pay for as much as you have them slice). I don't think she'll ever forget it. Just about perfect.

          I would strongly recommend Prufumo Di Vino in Treiso, near Barbaresco. It's a small informal place in the main square of Treiso (Treiso only has one square), but its fantastic. We were told about it by a Barbaresco winemaker whose estate we were visiting. It's run a pair of expatriates from Baja California and Ireland. But the food is traditional Piemonte. And the pasta is sensational. The two guys who ran the place came to Treiso to work at La Ciau del Tornavento, the other restaurant in Treiso, the one with a Michelin star. We did not eat there, but it is the first place I will book when we return. Everyone we spoke to thought it was superb.

          Finally, no matter what you are planning, you really have to get at least one (and hopefully more than one) appointment with some of the Piedmont vineyards. It's nothing like Napa or Sonoma, but most of the vineyards will receive guests for touring and tasting if you set it up in advance. In most of the places, especially the smaller ones, the winemaker will be your guide. Most of the places that import will have someone who speaks English. If your local winestore does not have any contacts with any of the Piedmont wineries, talk to one of their distributors; the distributors should definitely know someone who will receive you. The Piedmont wines are some of the best in the world, and there is nothing like drinking them at the cantina.

          By the way, are you stopping in Turin? You really should, its underrated, and you won't find many Americans. If you do, you'll have to stop at Eataly for food shopping. But that's a whole other story.

          You should have a great trip.

          21 Replies
          1. re: matabb

            Matabb: I am so grateful for your detailed response! I will add Profumo di Vino on my list. Both Enoclub and La Libeeria are closed Sunday night, our first night in Alba. Treiso looks like it is quite close, so perhaps I will plan our very first meal in the area in that town.

            We will be setting up some winery visits. And from Alba we will move to Turin and spend 3 nights, so please let me know your experiences with eating in that city. I have a lot of names but not many first-hand reports.

            Many, many thanks!

            1. re: erica

              Erica (it seems I will be following in your footsteps in May)... I would add to your list Ristorante Antine in Barbaresco (closed Wednesdays). We had an amazing meal there on our last trip (2004)...unfortunately I can't recall precisely what we ate, only that it was one of the best meals of our trip (if not the best!) We also enjoyed La Libera and Osteria dell'Arco in Alba (a Slow Food restaurant.)

              We also stayed at Villa La Favorita, lovely place with fantastic breakfasts, and Roberta will set up winery visits for you. We had an especially nice visit to Ca'Rome (also in Barbaresco.)

              1. re: jinx

                Jinx: I will add Antine to the list. It looks as if we will have to fit in 5 meals a day!

                Did you find that you could walk from the Villa Favorita into Alba? We might be a little shaky with driving into Alba on our first night, which is a Sunday. If you drove, did you find that it was fairly easy to find parking?

                I'd better eat those breakfasts early, so I will have room for lunch!

                1. re: erica

                  I definitely would NOT walk into town from Villa Favorita...not that it is very far, but it is a windy road with no shoulder. In fact the entrance into VF is a little hairy even in a car! But, it is just a five minute drive and we never had trouble finding parking, there are plenty of parking areas all around the outskirts (the town is not very large!) and one right as you drive in from VF.

                  Yes you are right, there aren't enough hours in the day to eat as much as we'd like to in Italy :)

              2. re: erica


                We only spent two nights in Turin, one of which was a Sunday (and almost nothing was open). The first night we ate at C'era una Volta, which was quite good. Their tasting menu is very reasonable (about 38 euro if I recall, maybe less), and it comes with course after course of food. If I remember correctly there were two antipasto dishes, a primi, a secondi and a desert. All courses were good, so make sure you come hungry.

                Sunday night we went to Eataly, which is a gas. In addition to all of the food store stuff (and a very reasonable wine cellar), it has something like 9 different food counters, from a pasta bar, to seafood, to meat dishes to desserts. The Torinese don't queue, and since it was one of the few places open on Sunday evenings, getting a table (or a seat at the bar) is quite an adventure. Not for the timid. But the food is good and pretty reasonable. Hey, if you don't like what you're having, you can find somewhere else in the place. They also have a formal sit down restaurant, which requires reservations, but it wasn't open on Sunday.

                I don't know if Profumo Di Vino will be open on Sunday. Since we weren't in Alba over a weekend, I'm not sure I can help you there.

                1. re: matabb

                  Profumo di Vino IS open on Sundays, so it will be the site of our first Piemontese meal.

                  Also booked: La Libera; Trattoria della Posta; Ca de Re; (waiting to hear from) Osteria Vignaiolo.

                  We are leaving in 10 days--does anyone have any recent information or tips about eating and food in the area?

                  Many thanks!

                  1. re: erica

                    trattoria della posta in monforte d'alba was my favorite restaurant and i want to rave about it to one and all. highly rated by both gambero rosso (49 cucina in my '07 copy) and michelin (1-star) but an outrageous value at around E45/pp.while it is a bit fancier than a typical trattoria, that's mostly because it's the perfect execution of piedmontese food.

                    della posta was recommended to us by our B&B's owner Giulio (a friend of Lou DiPalo of DiPalo's Cheese in Little Italy, NYC). Giulio begged the owner to squeeze us into a table during the truffle festival and i'm still appreciative 2 1/2 years later! della posta was also, hands down, the best place for white truffles during my month long visit (i had 4 white truffle meals in italy over a month). finally, i thought that it was better than da cesare (jeffery steingarten called da cesare one of the ten best restaurants in the world)--even though da cesare was the original reason why i came to piedmonte.

                    as for piola, i didn't try but i did eat at its sister/flagship restaurant piazza duomo. at piazza dumo, i bought a whole white truffle and had it served with my meal. unfortunately, the white truffle had almost no flavor (esp. compared to my subsequent blizzard of truffles at della posta) but that was the only (but expensive!) drawback. the rest of the food was fantastic though probably more modern than your preference. to put in nyc terms, it's more upscale and inventive like per se than classic like a voce or lupa.

                    1. re: fulminating

                      Thanks! I am So excited! I made a lunch booking at Della Posta and didi not book for dinner that night, in anticipation of a long, great meal!! No truffles now, though, unfortunately..

                      1. re: erica

                        i'm quite envious of you! i believe they offer a tasting menu, but in case they don't or you don't feel like it, classic dishes include:

                        antipasti: carne crudo (veal tartare; flavorful but lighter than the french version), bagna cauda (veg crudite with hot anchovy dipping sauce);

                        primi (pastas): tajarin (their version of talignoni) and agnolotti stuff with cheese.

                        secondi: braised or fried meats are classics. i had an excellent goose leg with foie gras.

                        those were what i ordered and they were amazing.

                        i now remember in hindsight that i was stuff going into della posta bc i had gone to piazza duomo for lunch! you will probably come out absolutely stuffed!

                        this link has pics and a good description of the food:

                        i've also insert a snapshot of the agnolotti with the tartufi bianco. sorry you won't be able to try it!

                        1. re: fulminating

                          I saw a photo of the goose here:


                          I want that. I want to try everything!!!!!!!

                          Did you love the carne cruda? I just looked at the menu-I am in trouble! Foie Gras with moscato gelee! I've never tried bagna cauda--should I try it there?

                          1. re: erica

                            wrt carne crudo: i really enjoyed and it according to my notes: "with parmagiano-reggiano cheese. veal - very tender and flavorful. lighter than steak tartare yet very tasty." so yes, i thought that it was great.

                            i also remember liking the tajarin A LOT. actually, the tajarin were generally better than the fettucine al ragu i had throughout emilia-romagna, so definitely make sure to eat it everywhere. it's similar to a fresh egg pasta version of capellini (angel hair). the agnolotti del plin were good but not as good as the tajarin.

                            and yes, bagna cauda is a great dish. no place in nyc has come close to reproducing it in piedmonte. but, at the end of the day, it's still just crudite in hot anchovy dipping sauce, like is an nyc dirty water hot dog worth eating? it's classic and representative of the neighborhood, but is it transcendant? hmm.... i think the menu, including the bagna cauda and carne crudo, was was a pretty good way to sample classic piedmontese food though I did not get a chance to try famous onion dish (darn).

                            i did eat at a very mediocre agriturismo in piedmonte and the difference in quality between it and della posta was staggering. equivalent to italian food in boston versus italian food in nyc!

                            della posta also has a ridiculous cheese selection. i had the famous castelmagno cheese (a piedmontese staple) but truth be told, i still prefer a good parmagiano or pecorino or even piave over it.

                            for your reference, here're pics of the bagna cauda, carne cruda, the goose leg, and of the cheese cart.

                            fyi, the goat really was great at da cesare. my only food regret in piedmonte was not getting to try guido and or osteria del boccondivo in bra (3 forks and 90 and 3 shrimp, respectively, in gambero rosso).

                            1. re: fulminating

                              Excellent information! I like the bagna cauda in the pepper!

                              Many thanks for al of the detailed information. If the tajarin is better than the pasta in Bologna, I am in deep trouble!

                              I am thinking perhaps I should not waste a course at della Posta with the bagna cauda but try that in another place so I can sample other delights on their menu. That cheese display IS ridiculous (ly amazing!!)

                              Please tell me where you had the the mediocre meal--not at Ca de Re, I hope, because I booked there..

                              Many thanks, again, for taking the time to respond!

                              1. re: erica

                                yeah, the tajarin were pretty impressive. the only places in e-r that i liked better in comparison were caminetto d'oro and osteria francescana with caminetto d'oro, the best fettucine al ragu i've ever had.

                                oh i don't even remember the mediocre meal's name any more--just an agriturismo in piedmonte; it definitely was not ca de re. it was just a meal we had late at night at our b&b on the way from parma. that was the only restaurant that we didn't specifically research beforehand via chowhound / plotkin / gambero russo etc.

                    2. re: erica

                      I will do a report when I return home, but just want to let anyone bound for this area that all of the places I mention in the 4.10.09 post above are excellent! Profumo di Vino was a great tip, Matabb!!! After 4 days of heavy eating I do not think we had one dish that was anything less than excellent! More soon...

                      1. re: erica

                        I look forward to your report Erica! We leave in 10 days! How was Trattoria della Posta? I just made a lunch reservation there...

                        1. re: jinx

                          Jinx: Fabulous! Honestly, having just returned I would say that the only "problem" we had was that, with only 5 days in the Langhe, there was barely enough time to scratch the surface on the Chow front.

                          Della Posta was one of our favorites in a week of amazing eating.. I will post the details once I get settled back home..hopefully this week. Meanwhile feel free to ask any and all food-related questions!

                          1. re: erica

                            Welcome back! I look forward to a full report, we still have a week before we go. I am wondering where you ended up eating in Turin?? We are actually staying in the Acqui Terme area and I am not making many other reservations before we arrive--one thing I've learned is that in Italy its not really difficult to get a reservation a day or two before, or even that very day, even for some of the top restaurants--at least when its not truffle season, lol. As we will be staying fairly remote in the countryside, we will mostly rely on our host's recommendations for local trattorias etc. But we'll have a couple of blow-out meals, probably I Caffi in Acqui Terme and of course, Della Posta. And your suggestion of Nonna Nina in Camogli for another lunch. We have one night in Turin and would love a suggestion there--

                            1. re: jinx

                              Hi Jinx! We had two dinners in Turin: Sotto Le Mole and Antiche Sera. I will write a full report hopefully before you leave, but for now, I will give you a few thoughts: Both of these restaurants are excellent and you cannot fault the food at either. Antiche Sera (cash only) has a fairly limited hand-written menu with about 5 choices for each course. The cooking is strictly traditional Piemontese, which means that you will have (or we had) seen the same dishes on many menus. It was asparagus season so one pasta and one main featured this vegetable. It is a simple, no frills place with exceptionally friendly staff. But then, the staff at everyplace we ate was remarkably welcoming--even more so than in any other region of Italy I'd visited, I think.

                              For that reason, because we had been eating these same dishes most of the week, I think I would give the edge to Sotto le Mole, only because they had slightly more variety on their menu. (I believe you could call Sotto Le Mole "modern Piemontese"; all the usual suspect plus a few tweaked ones on their menu) Sotto le Mole also has the advantage of being directly across the street from the surreal Mole Antoniella, with the famous elevator and cinema museum.

                              see menu:


                              But with only one night in Turin and after arriving from AT, where I believe the cooking is Ligurian influenced, you will not mind the purely traditional menu at Antiche Sera. AS is a bit out of the center and requires a taxi ride; we paid 13 euros going and 11 on the return, to our hotel (Sitea) in the center. We were there on a weekend and watched many hopeful diners without reservations being turned away at both places, so do book a day or so out if there on a weekend.

                              Turin is lovely and the city center is surprisngly small and very easy to navigate on foot. I recommend the TINY cafe Al Bicerin, for their celebrated "bicerin" drink; this is in the NW corner of the city center.


                              Please feel free to ask anything and everything, in case you are due to leave before I can do the report..

                              1. re: erica

                                thanks Erica, this is great info, in fact Sotto la Mole and Antiche Sere were on my short list for Turin. The edge was to Sotto la Mole mainly because it is walkable from our hotel, and with your description I'm definitely leaning towards it. We'll be in Turin on a Wednesday so I'll call a day or two before. Unfortunately Al Bicerin is closed on Wednesdays, but we'll try to hit it on Thursday morning.

                                Did you go to Eataly? Trying to decide if its worth taking time from exploring Turin, since we only have a day and a half there...

                                1. re: jinx

                                  Jinx: We had almost two full days and thought that that was a good amount of time for an overview, plus a visit to Eatitaly and the cinema museum and a lot of cafe hopping. The city center is small.

                                  Do not worry if Al Bicerin is closed, as Turin is filled with gorgeous and atmospheric cafes. (If you do get to Al Bicerin, stop in to the church across from the cafe and look at the chapel with the plaques commemorating recovery from illnesses and accidents)

                                  Even with the short amount of time, we visited these cafes; each one is beautiful and worth a stop:

                                  Caffe Torino

                                  Caffe Platti (west of train station


                                  Baratti & Milano (Pza Castello, 27, under the arches south of the castle; I am a big fan of their hard candies, especially the "1800 flavors")--you need to stop in here and have a look even if you do not plan to eat anything.

                                  I think Sotto Le Mole is a good choice.

                                  1. re: erica

                                    awesome, I am taking notes. Since Turin is our last big stop before heading home we plan to do our bring-home treat shopping there---chocolate and candies for sure!

              3. I had a fabulous meal at VinCafe in Alba a few years ago. In Turin I really like Mina-- old school but really good.

                1. I don't think you should miss Piazza Duomo while in Alba. I went last month, the food is not traditional, but it's light, it's delicious, and the flavors are just so... balanced! I think Enrico Crippa is one of the most talented chefs in Italy.
                  I'll also throw Antica Corono Reale "da Renzo" in Cervere into your list of places to consider. Traditional Piemontese cuisine, beautifully done. If you only try carne cruda one time on this trip, this should be it.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: tupac17616

                    Many thanks! Look at the photos of this meal at Da Renzo! It does seem a bit far from Alba, though:


                    I have added Piazza Duomo to my list--we still have a few meals free and we should probably try at least one "ristorante" as opposed to the osterie and trattorie that we have already booked..

                    Thanks again!

                    1. re: erica

                      Da Renzo is half an hour from Alba. What's the big deal if you will have a wonderful meal.

                      1. re: allende

                        Allende is right. It's not so bad. And it's no further than Cherasco, closer than Rochetta Tanaro, and not much further than Neive or Castello di Verduno.